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Can We Save the Environment and Our Communities By Giving Nature Legal Rights?

From rural Pennsylvania to South America, a global alliance is promoting the idea that ecosystems have intrinsic rights.

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This is happening. It is occurring through the work itself, as the changes in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Pennsylvania force some people to re-imagine how they think about, and feel about, the world we live in. Over time, the once- marginal starts to sound mainstream, even ordinary. At least, that’s how it happened with Cathy Miorelli, the first elected official to put rights of nature into a government law.

“I’ve always been an animal person,” Miorelli says. “I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t kill a bug if it comes in my house. So why would I want to kill a stream? Why wouldn’t we give rights to nature? It just came natural to me, like,This is the way it should be.”


Jason Mark is a co-manager at San Francisco's Alemany Farm and the editor of the quarterly environmental magazine, Earth Island Journal. He is also a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots.

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